City of Vancouver seeking new street cleaning services for Downtown Eastside and Chinatown

Jan 5 2023, 1:07 am

A new contractor is being sought by the City of Vancouver to perform public space cleaning services within the core of the Downtown Eastside and the adjacent northernmost perimeter of Chinatown.

The area to be cleaned by this dedicated service team spans about 10 city blocks — framed by Abbott Street to the west, Cordova Street to the north, Dunlevy Avenue to the east, and Pender Street to the south, which covers the encampment centralized along Hastings Street within this area.

With the emergence of the encampment last summer, this area has been a highly problematic area for cleanliness, pedestrian accessibility, and health and fire safety, and there has been a noticeable spillover effect on Chinatown to the south.

The municipal government is looking to finalize the contractor by the end of this month, allowing street cleaning services to start their work in early February. The contract will run through the end of July, when $450,000 in funding received by the City from the Union of BC Municipalities expires.

“The purpose of the project is to improve cleanliness and sanitary conditions, maintain accessibility for all pedestrians, and reduce fire hazards in the project space, while also providing job support and applied skills training opportunities for youths and adults who experience barriers to traditional employment, including those from equity seeking groups,” states the City, noting that they welcome proposals from not-for-profit organizations and social enterprises.

downtown eastside chinatown vancouver street cleaning area 2023

Project area for street cleaning services within the the core area of the Downtown Eastside and a portion of Chinatown. (City of Vancouver)

The contractor will be required to improve cleanliness and sanitary conditions within the area, including power washing and “micro-cleaning” — the collection of litter and needles on foot using brooms, shovels, and wheeled garbage carts. They will be required to work with property owners to gain access to water in order to complete power washing.

While the contractor’s work is expected to have the effect of reducing fire hazards and improving pedestrian accessibility, the City has emphasized the contractor is not expected to forcibly remove tents, structures, and other encroachments. But they will “initiate conversations with community members” in tents or other structures on maintaining accessibility for pedestrians and businesses, fire safety, and storage options for their belongings.

The selected contractor will be required to abide by the municipal government’s strict framework and terms to help ensure the effectiveness of the investment, and secure accountability. To this end, the contractor will provide monthly project metrics to the municipal government using a template provided by the City, and prepare a final report this summer shortly after the contract expires, including a summary of metrics and all expenditures, as well as lessons learned, successes, challenges, and future recommendations. Furthermore, the contractor will also be required to meet with City staff and other partners on a monthly basis to provide updates on the project.

Additionally, the contractor will provide the municipal government with an up-to-date cleaning schedule, which will help to better ensure accountability and enable City crews to schedule their sidewalk deep cleaning work after the contractor performs micro-cleaning.

As another layer of accountability, the contractor will be paid by the City on a monthly basis, instead of lump sum.

The municipal government began the process of looking for a new contractor in the middle of December.

This came just weeks after the City suddenly terminated its controversial $320,000 “Block Stewardship” street cleaning contract with the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) in late November, amidst growing public criticism over the lack of any improvements on street cleanliness and the removal of clutter. At the time of the contract termination, VANDU leadership suggested they had directed the funding they had received from the City towards their organization’s general operations, instead of the City’s intended purpose of directly towards street cleaning activities.

Separately, shortly after the 2022 civic election, Vancouver City Council approved a member motion directing City staff to create an action plan outlining “urgent measures to uplift Chinatown,” such as enhanced street, laneway, and sidewalk cleaning, and garbage and needle pick-up, as well as new graffiti removal strategies, placemaking, and murals.

In July, fire officials with the City made an order for the “immediate removal” of the encampment’s tents and structures due to the fire hazards not only from the nature of the encampment, but also to the surrounding buildings. The order was never fully enforced as it was met with opposition by those living in the encampment.

Premier David Eby has suggested his government will take steps this year to put an end to both the Hastings Street and Crab Park encampments.

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